Sequoia Changing Latitudes

Vessel Name: Sequoia
Vessel Make/Model: Outbound 44
Hailing Port: Portland, Or
Crew: Craig & Barbara Johnston
We are the proud owners of S/V Sequoia, Outbound 44 hull #5, built for us in Shanghai, China in 2001. [...]
We care about the world and its people, and try to live responsible lives, mindful of ourselves, the places we travel to, and the people we meet. We miss our sons and extended family, and try to get together as much as possible. And, dear reader, we look forward to meeting you, again or for the [...]
26 July 2011 | St. Helens/Scappoose, OR
20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
01 July 2011 | Hawaii
19 June 2011 | Hawaii
12 June 2011 | Maui, Hawaii
30 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
12 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
06 May 2011 | 547 miles east of Hilo, Hawaii
01 May 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
25 April 2011 | North Pacific
19 April 2011 | La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico
06 April 2011 | San Francisco Island, north of La Paz, Mexico
23 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico
14 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico
07 March 2011 | La Cruz, Nayarit, Mexico
17 February 2011 | Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, MX
04 February 2011 | Barra de Navidad, Jalisco, MX
29 January 2011 | Barra de Navidad, Colima, Mexico
23 January 2011 | Chamela Bay, Jalisco, Mexico
10 January 2011 | Paradise Marina, Banderas Bay, MX
Recent Blog Posts
26 July 2011 | St. Helens/Scappoose, OR

Arrival home after 18 day passage from Hawaii

We made it! We’re at home, contemplating the overgrown garden and the deer munching contentedly on everything, and most especially on those Oregon strawberries we’ve been longing for all year! Oh well – it’s good to be home, and everything seems to be in good order. The country is in political [...]

20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean

On passage from Kauai to Oregon

Several people commented that my last post, about our last weeks in Hawaii, seemed to be all about provisioning. I went back and looked at it, and they're right! We did lots of fun things in Hawaii, but there's no doubt my focus was on provisioning. Now that focus proves its merit. We're in the middle [...]

01 July 2011 | Hawaii

Oahu to Kaua'ia

19 June 2011 | Hawaii

Molokai to Honolulu

Today is Fathers Day, and I’m thinking about my father, his enjoyment of sailing, and how much he would have liked to be part of our journey. Sonata, the 39 foot sailboat he bought when I was in college, was a Transpac boat, built in the ‘50s to be a high-speed contender in that race. (Of course [...]

12 June 2011 | Maui, Hawaii

Westward Ho: Molokini, Lahaina, Honolua Bay

When I last wrote, we were still in Hilo, waiting for the trade winds to drop sufficiently that we could comfortably make passage across the Alenuihaha Channel to Maui. As it happens, now we are at the west end of Maui, waiting for the trade winds to drop sufficiently that we can comfortably make passage [...]

30 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii

Three weeks (or more) in Hilo

Tomorrow we will have been in Hilo for three weeks. What's that you say? Could Hilo possibly be that interesting that there would be three weeks of stuff to do there? Well, yes and no. Here's some details.

Arrival home after 18 day passage from Hawaii

26 July 2011 | St. Helens/Scappoose, OR
Barbara, cloudy -- Portland trying for summer
We made it! We’re at home, contemplating the overgrown garden and the deer munching contentedly on everything, and most especially on those Oregon strawberries we’ve been longing for all year! Oh well – it’s good to be home, and everything seems to be in good order. The country is in political crisis, the politics is ugly, and so what’s new? We’re picking up the threads of our land-based life, and trying to remember old habits (like how, exactly, does that washing machine work?)

We expected the last few days of our passage from Hawaii to be relatively calm and flat, and we expected to motor most, if not all, of the way. It was just as expected, until about 24 hours before we arrived at the Columbia River bar. Then the wind came up, and we were soon close hauled in big, lumpy, confused seas. Nice to have the engine off, but we were soon rolling, banging and slapping, and meal preparation once again became that familiar exercise of athleticism and paranoia. I was doing a dive to the bottom of the refrigerator, which involves removing everything from the top layer, and finding someplace stable to put each removed thing. I’ve gotten used to using the stovetop, because the stove is on gimbals, so stays relatively level all the time – although it does swing a bit as the boat rolls back and forth. One of the items in the refrigerator’s top layer was a tall half-gallon container of orange juice. I put it on the front of the stove, and in a particularly violent lurch, while I wasn’t paying close enough attention, it tipped off the stove, hit the floor, and dumped its entire contents into the bilge, the beverage locker, onto the carpets, into the head (bathroom) and onto the floor of Mark’s cabin. Expletives were heard. Loud expletives.

Ultimately, we just decided to clean up the hard surfaces and throw towels down over the wet sticky carpeting. After all, weren’t we just 24 hours from home? The lumpy seas (we started to call it “the washing machine”) continued, and we all had difficulty sleeping. I’m sure it wasn’t helped by the knowledge that first light would bring us within sight of land.

At this point we were surrounded by lots of fishing boats. Craig had caught an albacore in the afternoon (that was dinner – YUM!) so it was not surprising that there were lots of fishing boats in the vicinity. We were using the radar almost constantly, because the boats were hard to see in the mists. At night it became much easier, both because the mists lifted, and because the fishers all seem to light up their decks and surrounding sea with big mercury vapor lamps. Even when a fishing boat is over the horizon, you can still see the loom of light above it. (The astronomers – the low light guys – must hate that practice of the fishing boats). At one point, just after I went off watch at midnight, Mark called me to come up, saying he had a boat in sight that he was having trouble identifying – it didn’t appear on the radar. The putative boat appeared to be a sailboat, with spinnaker out, strangely luminescent with a yellow-orange color. But it couldn’t be, because a spinnaker couldn’t possibly be out in that direction – into the wind. Light-bulb moment: it was the moon, just coming up over the horizon. No wonder it didn’t appear on the radar!

For the last few days, we had been adjusting our speed to time our arrival for (relatively) slack water at 5:00 am at the Columbia River bar. That’s the current stage when waves are least likely to be a problem. Of course we knew from friends that the Columbia River is extraordinarily full for this time of year, with a current of 2.5 knots running for most of its length at least up to the Portland area. Thus there really is no slack water at the bar—it’s always flowing out. We arrived about 20 minutes late (not bad for an 18 day passage!) and the bar was a complete non-event. We took pictures at the moment of crossing the bar, and there are no significant waves showing in the background. The sun was shining brilliantly, and the fog we could see just inland from Astoria dissipated before we reached it. We decided not to touch land at all in Astoria, but just bomb up the river as fast as we could, hoping to reach St. Helens by 5:00 or 6:00 pm. We had plenty of fuel left, and we pushed the throttle up to 2500 rpm, which yielded 8 knots of speed. (Speed through water: 5.8 knots, because of the adverse current).

We hooked up the wash down pump, and using river water, washed all the salt off the boat. We stowed lines, inflated fenders, vacuumed the interior, and ate leftovers out of the refrigerator. We were passed by a lot of commercial traffic heading upriver. At one point, we were being passed by a tug towing a barge that was carrying two other smaller barges. A giant Honda car-carrier came up behind him, and passed us both. I didn't know the river was wide enough for that!

The sunshine was quite lovely – apparently coming out just for our arrival. We reached St. Helens at about 6:00 and then had a lovely dinner with a welcoming committee of friends. Glad to be home!

Now, it’s back to the mountains of mildewed laundry and the piles of mail that have accumulated over the past year. We’ll alternate working on that with removing every mildewed thing from the boat, cleaning all with bleach, dousing the carpets with buckets of water, and then – hopefully – finding several days of hot sunshine in a row to dry everything out. Next we’ll try to tackle the overgrown garden, figure out how to scare off the deer, and then we’ll be off to California for the wedding of our son, David, to the lovely Tara Hernandez. I’m hoping that somewhere in there will be the opportunity for me to get together with old or new chamber music friends, and resume the life of a musician!

On passage from Kauai to Oregon

20 July 2011 | In the middle of the ocean
Several people commented that my last post, about our last weeks in Hawaii, seemed to be all about provisioning. I went back and looked at it, and they're right! We did lots of fun things in Hawaii, but there's no doubt my focus was on provisioning. Now that focus proves its merit. We're in the middle of day 14 of the passage, with 4-5 more days to go, and we still have fresh fruit and vegetables. That's all the more amazing, because most of my supplies came from Honolulu and are now about 20 days old - and that's counting from when I bought them! I've been able to keep some of these things in the refrigerator, but many, not. Yesterday I got out a cabbage purchased in Honolulu's Chinatown, grown in Hawaii, and never refrigerated. We experienced 80-85 degree heat for the first half of the passage, so I was really expecting the worst. Previous passages have yielded slimy green-grey messes when the brown paper around a cabbage is opened at this stage. But this Hawaiian cabbage had only a few brown marks around its outer leaves, and the base was doing its best to grow new roots (a few compact but feathery fronds).

Cooking, of course, is a neurotic, athletic experience, capable of producing full-blown hysteria. The first few days of the passage, we were close to the wind, on a starboard tack, so all liquid spills flowed either into the refrigerator/freezer, or under the cabinet. In the second half of the passage, we're heeled in the other direction (although not so dramatically), so spilled liquids aren't such a problem (except that managing any liquid in a seaway is, per se, a problem), but now if the cabinet doors are open, everything wants to fall out. Especially the salt and pepper grinders, which have that oh-so-elegant, but oh-so-top-heavy, tall thin shape.

Despite all the difficulties, menu planning and cooking are my primary creative outlets during passages. I've written before how the days have a sameness about them, and they stretch backwards and forwards in a seemingly unending procession. When lying in my bunk, or bundled up on watch, I think about what I could cook, what vegetables are about to spoil, what everyone would like, and what the wind and wave conditions might be at the cooking hour. The ocean tends to kick up (for its own perverse unknowable reasons) just before dinner. Our friends on Kasala call it the cocktail hour crush. I also have to fit the cooking schedule into my watch schedule and Craig's radio schedule. Too many times, I've had dinner ready at exactly the moment Craig is ready to report our position to the Pacific Seafarer's Net. (That's the information which appears at - among other places -- and which you can see on a daily basis). (Thank you, Mark, for creating and maintaining that website!) Other times, the meal is hot and ready when we need to shorten sail (make the sails smaller because of increasing winds). But all and all, Mark and Craig report that they like what I'm cooking, and I think they're glad to have me doing it. Craig pitches in with a meal once in awhile when I'm desperate, and Mark cheerfully washes the dishes.

Most recently, our dinners have included tamale pie, fresh-baked pizza, beef stew, macaroni & cheese casserole and spaghetti a la carbonara. That last item was one Craig chose to make on a particularly rocky and rolly evening, and involves more than one liquid: boiling spaghetti - to be somehow drained into a colander above a pitching sink - and beaten eggs, to be tossed into the hot spaghetti along with chopped parsley, grated cheese, and bits of garlic-sauteed turkey ham. The end result was very successful, although the stove, counters, and rug - not to mention the expletives heard from the galley - evidenced some difficulties in making it all come together.

We're now four days away from Astoria. Every time we make a log entry, we've started adding the words: "___ nm to Astoria." The current figure, as of this moment is 528 nautical miles. That means we will likely arrive next Sunday, July 24, a passage of 18 days. It all depends on the wind and the current. We expect mild winds, with sometimes not quite enough wind to make our maximum desirable speed (about 7.5 knots). For a couple of hours each day, we turn on the engine, usually out of gear, to make electricity and hot water, and occasionally, when the wind falls short, in gear, to propel us a bit faster.

We're currently at latitude 46 degrees, heading more or less due east toward the mouth of the Columbia River. We know we're approaching the Pacific Northwest, because it's getting downright cold, especially at night. For the first half of the passage, we were still wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts during the day, and adding a light jacket at night. Now we're all bundled up, looking for more warm clothes that have not been compromised by a salt water dousing, a pernicious leak into the clothing locker, or just general marine air dampness. When I'm on watch at night, I'm wearing four layers - long underwear, fleece (x2) and foul weather gear. During the day, I'll settle for three! Maybe our blood has been thinned by being in the tropics for nearly a year. But Mark, who came to Hawaii only three weeks ago from Portland, also is feeling the cold. There's no sun - or maybe just an hour in mid-afternoon - so I assume we're seeing coastal fog, even though still about 500 miles out. Or maybe this is just a wretched summer in the Northwest, and those usual, lovely, six weeks of sunshine haven't yet arrived. I have this picture in my mind of how we'll motor up the Columbia River in bright hot sun, digging for those shorts and sleeveless shirts. We shall see.

Oahu to Kaua'ia

01 July 2011 | Hawaii
Barbara/hot and humid in a pleasant tropical way

I’m sitting in “Da Fuel Dock” store, where they have a few washers and driers for the benefit of boats in the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Our laundry from the last week is merrily spinning around, biding its time until it next demands attention from me. Seems like a good time to do a trip update for you, my dear family and friends. Craig is off returning the rental car, Mark (new crew, who arrived yesterday) is tweaking a web page so that you, my lucky readers, can watch our day-to-day progress on our upcoming passage from Kaua’i to Oregon. (See Plus, Mark tells me, the daily position reports will be automatically available to Facebook subscribers.)

We’ve been provisioning the last few days, stuffing the refrigerator and freezer to the gills, and finding every vacant space in cabinets and under the cabin sole (floor) to stuff cans of this and that, bags of flour and blocks of hard cheese. I have two giant folding crates full of fruits, vegetables and eggs. Hopefully they’ll keep us in tasty fresh food for most of the voyage.

This afternoon we’ll fuel up (and retrieve the clean, dry laundry), and then head out the mouth of Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, destination: Hanalei Bay on the north side of Kaua’i. As we head out, I’ll throw my orchid lei overboard to float on the water, supposedly assuring my return to the island. There’s actually a side motive for throwing out the lei: I need the space in the refrigerator! Craig gave me that lei for our anniversary dinner -- two weeks ago – and it still looks as fresh as the day he gave it to me. Orchids are amazing that way!

We’ve had a great time in Honolulu. It starts and ends with the Hawaii Yacht Club, where we’ve had an oh-so-friendly welcome, an island of serenity within the tourist bustle of Waikiki. The club is busy now with preparations for the arrival of the Transpac fleet. The boats leave California on July 4, and the first boat is expected to arrive five days later. (That’s an astonishing time, considering we’ll take three weeks, more or less, to sail to Oregon.) Club members are attending committee meetings and work parties, all to get ready for the arrival of the racing yachts.

We rented a car for the two weeks we’ve been here. That allowed us to do some exploration outside of the Honolulu area, and we were able to do every conceivable Honolulu errand we wanted. Craig went to West Marine and Ace Hardware. I mostly went to grocery stores for the provisioning project, including Costco, Safeway, Walmart, Foodland and the Saturday Farmers Market at Kapiolani Community College. Perhaps the best provisioning (at least for fresh fruits and vegetables) was at the Chinatown vendors. The prices were the best in Honolulu, maybe because there are so many vendors, close to each other, and competing strenuously.

The prices in Honolulu – even Chinatown – are breathtaking. In a way that’s understandable, because most things come in on ships or airplanes. Local fruits/vegetables are priced equally high, if not higher, perhaps just because they can. But indeed the cost of living is much higher here, so the farmers have to make more money than on the mainland, just to live. The ultimate shopping experience (pricewise and otherwise) has to be the Whole Foods Market. I went there for the freshest possible produce (and that was successful) but the prices! Zucchini, $3.99 a pound. Tomatoes, $5.99 a pound. Radishes: $2.99 for a bunch – seven radishes! Yikes! I looked for a five-pound bag of plain old sugar at the Whole Foods Market, and they don’t even stock such a thing. Instead they have little bags of organic fancy-named sugars. Needless to say, I had to go to Safeway for some things, including that five pound bag of sugar.

One day we drove across the island, through the Ko’olau Range, through the rain showers and the fog, to the windward coast of Hawaii. At first, it’s just a big extended suburb (which could almost be Southern California), but as you travel northwest along the shore, the civilization thins out, and things become more scenic, more interesting. We stopped at He’eia State Park, which the Lonely Planet Guide describes as “looking abandoned.” I think the truth is that it rains so much there, everything is green, including some of the buildings. There were chickens wandering around, and below the banquet building (it advertises being a venue for weddings), we found a garden devoted to traditional Polynesian farming plants and techniques. Daniel, a friendly guy our age, apparently pure Hawaiian, was tending the garden. (Actually he was sitting on the steps “talking story” with a couple of other folks). Craig approached them (he is so much better at that than I), and asked about the garden. Daniel started telling us about the taro, including side trips to Hawaiian origin stories, explanations of language, and stories about his grandfather. We spent a couple of hours with him, learning many interesting things. “Aloha” means “breath of life given from above” (“ha” = breath of life; “alo” means God-given). Daniel said that ciguatera (a poison sometimes found in reef fish) is undoubtedly caused by mustard gas dumped in a Hawaii harbor. It affects the entire tropical world, he said. We are quietly skeptical.

Daniel became vehement when talking about were the actions of the US military in commandeering sacred land from the Hawaiians. He’eia State Park is an area that was formerly used for preparing a body after death. The body was then loaded onto a canoe. At dusk, the canoe was paddled across Kane’ohe Bay to Mokapu Penninsula, giving the mourners the illusion that the body was being transported to the great beyond. (Daniel pointed out that “kapu” – or in English, taboo – means that the land is sacred to Hawaiians.) But now the Marine Corps has the entire peninsula as its Hawaii base, including an airfield and a golf course. Daniel said that periodically, bones work their way up through the grass in the golf course, and the officials just shove them back in. Daniel has participated in talks with various government officials, who uniformly say they feel bad about the Hawaiian’s loss of access to their sacred ground and burial place. But the military is mighty and unwilling to give up its strategically located land, no matter how bad individual officers may feel about the whole thing.

We did many of the usual tourist things in Honolulu. We visited the Iolani Palace where the last royalty of Hawaii reigned before being ousted by local businessmen. We visited Chinatown, the Saturday Farmers Market, and of course Pearl Harbor. We visited the battleship Missouri and the Arizona Memorial, both very moving experiences. Our last outing was to the Bishop Museum, which contains a vast number of artifacts from Hawaii’s history. King Kameha’s fabulous cloak is there, made from the yellow feathers of 80,000 Mamo birds. The Mamo bird is now extinct and one wonders whether the King’s fabulous cloak had anything to do with it.

After the Bishop Museum closed, the festivities got underway for the arrival of the seven Polynesian canoes that sailed from New Zealand in April. The canoes were crewed by representatives of a number of different island nations, including the Marquesas, Tahiti, Tonga, Fiji, the Cook Islands, Samoa – all places we visited in our trip through the South Pacific. But these canoes had no GPS or modern navigating instruments, and relied instead on the Polynesian methods of navigation, passed down through the generations. On the central lawn of the museum, a covered bandstand had been set up, and we listened and watched a number of troupes of hula dancers, and we listened to speeches about the significance of this voyage. The canoes are heading for California next – and that would seem to be outside of the traditional Polynesian voyaging range. Although… Daniel of the taro patch assured us that ancient Hawaiians went to the west coast of North America. He thinks there are many similarities between native Hawaiian and native American cultures. He offers as an example the Hopi Indians. He’s just sure that they are a lost tribe of Hawaiians – you can tell from the name. Hawaiian: “Ho’opili” Just like Hopi, right?

We’ll spend a few days anchored in Hanalei Bay, swimming off the back step, exploring ashore a bit, and preparing the boat for the big passage. Provisioning – so we hear – is not an option on Kaua’i, at least not near Hanalei Bay. It’s a big resort place, and there are only a few convenience stores. I’m hoping there’s a Laundromat as well.

[Later] I was unable to finish up this trip report before we left Honolulu. We traveled overnight and had a nice sail, a few rain showers, and a spectacular star show. Arriving here in Hanalei Bay we were struck by the exotic tropical character of the place. Mark’s comment was that it looks like the set for “Lost.” We haven’t been ashore yet, just relaxing after the overnight passage. I’ll try to write again before we leave on passage for Oregon (tentatively slated for July 6). If you like, you can follow our progress across the ocean here: Follow the link to see a map of our most recent position report (you may have to use the zoom out to get an understandable picture.

Molokai to Honolulu

19 June 2011 | Hawaii
Barbara, partly cloudy
Today is Fathers Day, and I’m thinking about my father, his enjoyment of sailing, and how much he would have liked to be part of our journey. Sonata, the 39 foot sailboat he bought when I was in college, was a Transpac boat, built in the ‘50s to be a high-speed contender in that race. (Of course by today’s high-tech standards, it was somewhat of a slug.) So here we are in Transpac country, at the Hawaii Yacht Club. Everything is focused on the arrival of the Transpac racers, about 4 weeks from now. The dock we are on was damaged in the March tsunami, but they got it repaired (and coincidentally ready for us) because of the urgency of the arrival of the Transpac fleet.

Mark and Dot Hazlett, of Pu’aena, had arranged for us to stay at the Waikiki Yacht Club, across the way, and it was a difficult decision to choose HYC instead. But ultimately we decided not to pay the extra for the WYC facilities (including a swimming pool), since we’ll be here for about two weeks.

These are really nice people here. Chris, the HYC manager has gone out of his way to be helpful. Parking permits are scarce to nonexistent, but he tracked down a permit for us. The club’s bartender is on vacation in Las Vegas, and he had left his parking permit in his car. The car was at his mechanic’s shop, and a neighbor had the key. Chris contacted the bartender, the mechanic and the neighbor, and then drove out to retrieve the permit for us. Astonishing! It has enabled us to rent a car for at least the next week. We plan outings by car all over Oahu.

I’ll back up and tell you about Molokai, the last island we visited. It was different from any of the other Hawaiian Islands, primarily because there are very few tourists. Other than one big, remote golfing resort, there seem to be no big hotels. Most people who want to stay there have to find a rental house or condominium. Of course that wasn’t a problem for us – we anchored in Kaunakakai Harbor, and dinghied ashore.

Of course getting anchored in Kaunakakai Harbor was not an easy thing. Adjacent to the town of Kaunakakai, the reef extends out half a mile, and is mostly exposed at low tide. When they created the harbor, they dredged a 20-foot-deep rectangular space out of the reef, built a wharf in the middle, and built a causeway out to the wharf. The whole affair sticks out into the trade winds, and on the leeward side of the wharf, you still experience the 25 knot winds, even though the waves are knocked down to nothing. In 25 knot winds, it is quite difficult to anchor. Not only that, but as far as the State is concerned, the dredged area is a turning basin for the ferry, the tugs and the barges that come into the harbor. The only consideration for visiting yachts is that they stay out of the way. So the available anchoring area is limited to one small corner, and you’d better not swing out into the turning basin when the wind changes. (And of course, you’d better not swing the other way, or you’ll be onto the reef.) To make a long story short, we ended up putting out three anchors – two forward and one to the stern. It’s a long process, and pulling them all up when you get ready to leave is a drawn-out, messy job. There’s all sorts of garbage on the bottom of the harbor, and the mud is sticky. Each anchor pulled up at least its own weight in garbage and mud, which then had to be removed and washed off.

But anchoring difficulties aside, Molokai was an interesting and charming place. We went ashore and rented an elderly, beat up, but expensive Toyota from the only rental agency on the island. We drove from end to end and top to bottom of the island in the 24 hours we had the car. The little town of Kaunakakai (commercial center of the island) has a middle America look about it – little stores with false fronts, dusty shops, and no traffic lights. We found the Laundromat, the natural foods store, the grocery store, and we poked our heads in a souvenir shop and an art gallery. We had an expensive but mediocre plate lunch, and shook our heads at the prices of things. Tomatoes, $4 a pound; gasoline, $5.21 a gallon. Rental car with 104,000 miles on the odometer: $60 a day.

First we drove north, to the windward side of the island. At Palaau State Park, we looked off a 2000 foot cliff, down at Father Damien’s leprosy colony at Kalaupapa. Hawaiian leprosy victims were banished and isolated there for a century before a drug was found to prevent the progression and transmission of the disease. Now it’s a national historical park, but some of the residents (now very elderly) still live there by choice. Escorted tours are possible but expensive, and there is no road to reach there. The only access is by trail, boat or airplane. Father Damien (now Saint Damien) ministered to the residents there in the nineteenth century, before he caught the disease himself and died. The view from the Palaau cliffs is gorgeous and astonishing. Big whitecaps out in the Pacific Ocean reminded us why we didn’t choose to sail the windward side of the island. (Reportedly, though, it’s a spectacular sail).

Next we drove out to the west end of the island, a relatively unpopulated area, with a long gorgeous beach. Much of the west end of the island is owned by Molokai Ranch, an entity with a somewhat checkered and much-reviled history. Some time ago, it was planned to be a huge development, and there are miles of road with installed utilities (including fire hydrants), concrete paving, and bare land. There are some enclaves of luxury homes, but it’s mostly just kiawe brush. The cracks in the road have grass growing up through them, and sometimes the road is encroached by the brush and grasses down to one lane. The developers have floated a number of plans, but the island residents seem to hate them. The current plan, which we read about in the local paper, is to install giant wind turbines on the Molokai Ranch property, to create electricity for Honolulu. According to the paper, 92 percent of the residents are against this plan. The huge cost of the undersea electrical cable would reportedly be borne by ratepayers, including Molokai residents.

Our last drive in the rental car was out to Halawa Bay on the northeast corner of the island. This 27 mile road narrows down to one lane for the last 7 miles or so, and passes over a windswept ridge before dropping down into a quintessential tropical valley. There’s a sacred waterfall at the head of the valley, with beach, palm trees and snorkeling at the seaward end. Along the road, we saw ancient Hawaiian fish ponds, constructed by pre-contact Hawaiians from heavy lava boulders. The walls are placed so that the small fish can swim in, and when they get bigger, they’re too big to swim out. Many of the fish ponds are still maintained functioning today. We also saw two charming little churches built by Father Damien (apparently his duties encompassed more than the leprosy colony.) And we stopped and had a Hawaiian plate lunch which was much tastier (and somewhat cheaper) than the one we’d had in Kaunakakai.

Two of the other sailboats in the Kaunakakai harbor are worth mentioning: Libertatia (Lowell, Jenine and Emmett) came in the day after us. It’s a 1935-era boat which we had first seen in Honolua Bay. Their engine is somewhat questionable – we watched them leave the next day, sailing out of the harbor (straight into the wind), and having difficulty rounding the buoys. We watched as they lowered a dinghy, attached a tow rope, and attempted to move the boat forward under oar-power. They did finally make it, but they had a difficult upwind passage ahead of them. Lowell reported that he had found a job in Alaska, so they were taking the boat back to Lahaina. We don’t know if Emmett and Jenine will be continuing on alone.

The other sailboat of note is Doubloon. Its owner, “Stretch,” gave all sorts of helpful advice during the anchoring process. At his suggestion, we put out the stern anchor, and he told us all about local conditions. Stretch, and his dog, Honey Girl, are long term residents there. When we were ready to move on to the next anchorage, Lono Harbor, he advised us to give it a miss because of the (according to him) undesirable resident there, “Chuck.” “He’ll steal things off your boat in the middle of the night.” We chose to ignore that particular advice (other cruisers had positive things to say about Chuck). In the end, I figure there must be some sort of feud going between Stretch and Chuck.

Lono Harbor is an interesting spot, out of the waves but still windy, in a lonely uninhabited area just south of Molokai Ranch. Apparently it was built for barges in the 30’s, when there was an active aggregate mining operation in the area. Now it’s a park, but not much used. One reason may be the bees. As soon as we had the anchor down, the bees started arriving. Before long there were 20 or 30 bees buzzing around inside the boat, ultimately congregating inside the galley’s water faucet. We deployed all our bug screens, and then Craig went at the remaining bees inside the boat with a flyswatter. The surviving bees mostly moved to our shower at the stern step. Although it was shut off, there is evidently a miniscule leak which attracted them. They didn’t go away until after dark, and they were back in the morning at first light, when we pulled up the anchor for the passage to Honolulu.

The passage to Honolulu was the roughest channel crossing yet. Despite a forecast for 20 knots of wind, with occasional gusts, we experienced on average 25-30 knots, with regular gusts to 35, and an occasional gust to 40. The seas built to 8-10 feet, and we were tossed around a good bit. We wound up with three reefs in the main and only a handkerchief of a jib out. At one point we were joined by a tiny finch. This little bird, only 2 inches long, perched on a wire connected to one of our solar panels. He closed his eyes, rocked back and forth, and hung on for dear life for about a half an hour. He was gone briefly, and then he turned up on one of the seat cushions in the cockpit. That didn’t last long (nothing to hang onto), and then he flew into the cabin. Craig was asleep down there, so I figured I’d warn him about the bird when he woke up. Unfortunately, I didn’t say anything in time, Craig inadvertently startled the bird, and he flew out the companionway like a rocket, into the sky. That’s the last we saw of the little finch, and I hope he made it to land. We were still about 20 miles out…

It was really quite thrilling to see Oahu and then, more distinctly, Diamond Head in the distance. We passed the Diamond Head buoy, which is at the finish line for the Transpac Race. Then scooting along Waikiki Beach, with its dozens of skyscraper hotels, surfers and tourist boats. We found the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor, and then the Hawaii Yacht Club. Ka’sala was at the dock, and Lyneita helped us with our lines. So here we are, ready to enjoy a couple of weeks with the tourists, before we move on to Kauai and the North Pacific.

As I said at the outset, I’m thinking today about my father (who died about 15 years ago). But we’re very fortunate to still have Craig’s dad (now age 96). We talked with him by phone this morning in Lafayette, wished him a Happy Father’s Day. He caught us up with the news of the world, and reminisced about his own days in Honolulu (including on December 7, 1941).

Westward Ho: Molokini, Lahaina, Honolua Bay

12 June 2011 | Maui, Hawaii
When I last wrote, we were still in Hilo, waiting for the trade winds to drop sufficiently that we could comfortably make passage across the Alenuihaha Channel to Maui. As it happens, now we are at the west end of Maui, waiting for the trade winds to drop sufficiently that we can comfortably make passage across the Pailolo Channel to Molokai. Hmmm… Something sounds familiar about this….

Before we left Hilo, we took one last car trip, down to the south end of the Big Island – southernmost point in the United States. The narrow road down to South Point crosses a windy plain, with grazing cattle, horses, and satellite tracking dishes. There are several rows of defunct wind generators, missing some of their arms, and dripping rust. It’s really a disheartening sight, reminiscent of the space junk so prominent in the first Star Wars movie. Beyond the defunct wind generators are rows of modern, much bigger wind generators, looking sleek, efficient and distant. And there’s plenty of wind to make them all go around.

At South Point, the road peters out, and there are dozens of fishermen, casting their lines off the big cliffs. They have tents and porta-potties staked against the wind, and look like they are there for the long term. There were no women among the fishers. Many of the men had the look of rebellious, testosterone-heavy youth, or older substance abuse-compromised homeless people. We watched one young man on a rock out in the surf, at times up to his knees in crashing waves, casting his line out into the ocean, while his friend hung onto a rope anchored into the rock. In the rocks above the young man was a sign advising that this was the site of “canoe mooring holes.” Indeed, we saw numerous examples of holes cut into the lava rock, presumably where canoes could be tied. But the surf was so rough, it was hard to imagine that any canoe could tie up there without assured destruction.

Leaving Radio Bay in Hilo was slightly more hassle than we had anticipated. The dinghy had been in the water for three weeks, and even though we washed it off mid-way through our stay, the bottom was thoroughly slimy. We couldn’t put it away like that, so we spent considerable time scrubbing it down with various anti-slime agents that really didn’t work too well. We finally rolled it up and put it away, and haven’t had it out again since. It remains to be seen (or smelled) how successful our clean-up was. The anchor chain and anchor also proved to be totally encrusted with mud, slime, rust and very sharp little barnacles. Again, you can’t put those away without cleaning all that off, or suffer the olfactory consequences when you open the anchor locker. Not sure where all that rust came from – the chain is galvanized, so there must be something very big and very rusty on the bottom of Radio Bay.

We finally headed out of Radio Bay late in the afternoon of June 3, and motored north, rounding the north end of the Big Island during the night, and crossing the Alenuihaha Channel the next morning. Yes, it was rough, but it was manageable. By midday we were at anchor in Makena Bay, where it was relatively calm, and we went to sleep. We were awakened an hour or so later when the wind came up, waves were reaching 3-4 feet, and our anchor was dragging. We moved to the other side of the point (in front of Big Beach) and found a satisfactory, but somewhat rolly anchorage for the night.

We weren’t far from Molokini, a half sunken crater which is a snorkeling destination. You’re not allowed to anchor, but there are mooring buoys six feet underwater. In the morning we motored the twenty minutes to get there, located a buoy and Craig dove down and retrieved it. After tying off our bow line, we spent an hour snorkeling with the tourists (there were MANY tourists there, on many excursion boats). The coral is in good condition, but we didn’t see all that many fish – I think we’ve been spoiled by all the good snorkeling in the South Pacific.

That night, we caught a mooring buoy off Lahaina. This one was nowhere near as easy as the Molokini buoy. It was floating on the surface, but crusted with nasty sharp barnacles, and streaming in a strong current. First try, Craig caught it with the boat hook, but the boat swung around in the current, capturing the boat hook between the buoy and the bow of the boat, and bending the boat hook into oblivion. The handle of the boat hook came off (bent boat hook still attached to buoy) and the boat drifted away. Next try, Craig managed to get a rope through a link of the chain, and worried about chafe in the strong current (which was flowing contrary to the wind, of course) finally wound up deploying our storm rode lead over the anchor platform: five feet of 5/8 inch chain with a heavy canvas hose cover, to connect to the mooring rope.

After all that, the waves made the moorage a very rolly experience. We deployed the “flopper stopper” but even so, it was not a comfortable night. The next morning we talked to the harbormaster in Lahaina, and were able to get a slip inside the harbor. Not the best situation – we were rafted onto another boat, and the finger pier they were tied to was reportedly damaged in the March tsunami. But it worked for us, and we were able to stay for four days. Our friends on Ka’sala were there in the harbor, and we also saw the folks from Midnight Blue and Dog Star (we first met all these folks in Mexico). We spent time with some of these friends, and also explored on our own. There were lots of historic sites to see, lots of good (and expensive) restaurants. We rented bikes one day and explored a bit further.

Yesterday, we left Lahaina and motored up the coast of Maui to Honolua Bay, where we are now. The trade winds are howling across the bay, but that doesn’t stop the big tourist excursion boats which come here with hundreds of would-be snorkelers. More snorkelers enter the bay from the shore. There’s a big sea turtle who evidently lives close by where we are anchored. We saw him when we came in, and we’ve heard numerous snorkelers commenting that they saw a turtle. Our anchor has completely buried itself in the sand – something that’s easy to see in 35 feet of very clear water. We went snorkeling today, both to check the anchor, and just to look at the coral and the fish. There are many different varieties of fish here, although still not the abundance we saw in the South Pacific. We’ll keep looking!

Besides the tourist boats, there have been two other sailboats here. One, Libertatia, is a 1935 wooden boat, Ed Monk’s first design, partly square rigged, which a group of young guys bought for a song in Seattle and restored. When we first arrived, Lowell and Jenine swam over to greet us, bringing a nice bunch of Hawaiian bananas. We spent an hour or so talking with them, and hearing their plans for heading to the South Pacific and beyond. They have an interesting website:

Tomorrow we expect to cross the Pailolo channel over to Molokai, an island that reportedly doesn’t get much tourist traffic. We’re looking forward to that!

Three weeks (or more) in Hilo

30 May 2011 | Hilo, Hawaii
Barbara, rainy
Tomorrow we will have been in Hilo for three weeks. What's that you say? Could Hilo possibly be that interesting that there would be three weeks of stuff to do there? Well, yes and no. Here's some details.

Every few days we get excited, and we're about to depart, but then the weather window, which was supposedly about to happen, closes with no explanation. The weathermen (or perhaps weatherwomen) tease us with the promise of a slight lessening of the wind a few days ahead. But as you get closer to the supposed lessening, it dwindles and then goes away. Not mentioned. Not going to happen.

The problem is the Alenuihaha Channel, which is in between the Big Island and Maui, the next island downwind. The northeast trade winds funnel through that channel, which runs northeast to southwest, and the funnel amplifies the winds. 20 knots elsewhere becomes 30 knots in the channel. 30 knots of wind means wind waves of 13 feet. All of which sounds rather off-putting. It's not that we can't handle those conditions, because we have seen them and sailed through them before - it's just that sitting here in calm Hilo, why would you purposely volunteer for those conditions? Especially when there's so much to do here that's fun.
So we keep renting these cars... I'm sure you could get a better rate if you rented a car for three weeks, rather than two days, plus four days, plus three days, plus four days, etc. etc. Each time a weather window snaps shut, we rent a car from then until the next possible weather window. We can tell you all about the various agencies, which ones charge for a spouse/driver, which ones clean their cars thoroughly, and how to get the best price on Priceline. And of course, once you have a car, it's time to go out and go exploring. Here's some of what we've done:

Our first trip was to go over to the Kona coast (on the dry side of the island) to check out the one marina and the few anchorages and decide whether we wanted to take the boat over there. We decided not. Too many tourists, too many shops that only want to sell to tourists, no space in the marina, and anchorages that seem pretty rolly. We checked out the commercial harbor at Kawaihae, which appears on the charts to have lots of space behind a breakwater, but it's apparently unfriendly to cruisers. Commercial traffic only. We talked to some picnickers there, including a well-pickled lady who insisted that Craig was Sean Connery. (I must admit I do see a resemblance).

Next we went to Volcano National Park and looked at steam vents, lava tubes and desolate calderas, all in the rain. The scenery is stunning, but it would be better without the rain. We're heading back tomorrow or the next day to give the weather another try and go for a hike. (It rains every day in Hilo, and it rains more at night. As you travel toward the mountains, the rain seems to increase. 200 inches annually in Hilo, 240 inches up the hill a ways.)

Another day we drove to the edge of the lava flow which was occurring as recently as three months ago. Now it's a black stone river, with some houses that escaped in little islands of green, and others that were covered over. That part of the lava flow is still all private property, and some folks have built their houses back on top of the lava. In other places, they've just chalked on "Kapu" (taboo) or "No Trespassing." Then we drove along the coast and saw big seas, a few surfers, a few spots for swimmers, and lots of lush tropical foliage.

One evening we drove up to the visitor center on Mauna Kea, the biggest mountain on Hawaii Island. The visitor center is at 9000 feet, although all the observatories are actually at the summit, more than 13,000 feet. (The car rental companies don't let you drive all the way to the top, unless you rent a 4 wheel drive, which we have not chosen to do. ) The drive up was spectacular. The road passes through rain and layers of clouds, changing vegetation, and finally out into the open air above the clouds. We reached the visitor center just before sunset, and climbed up an adjacent cone to watch the sunset. The clouds boil through the pass between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, and layers of clouds extend in all directions, with volcanic peaks poking up here and there. Back down at the visitor center, we watched a film and ate a picnic dinner while we waited for it to get dark. Out on the lanai and in the parking lot, they had about 15 telescopes set up. Volunteers told us what there was to see in the various telescopes ("Saturn" or "The Jewel Box" or ...) When it was completely dark, a gentleman told us about various constellations, stars, planets, galaxies etc. that could be seen. He had a laser pointer which amazingly was effective in pointing out the various stars and constellations for the entire crowd (perhaps 50 people). It was bitterly cold - those 30 knot winds, but at distinctly non-tropical temperatures. We had brought fleece jackets, but would have been better off with knit caps and gloves, and maybe even long underwear! Still, the whole thing was definitely worth the trip and worth the cold. They say this is the best astronomical observation spot in the world, particularly in that you can drive to it in less than two hours.

A few days ago we drove up to Hawi, at the north end of the island, where I had been able to find some folks to play chamber music with. It was the carbon fiber cello's first outing in a chamber music setting, and I must say I was quite pleased with how it played and sounded. We enjoyed meeting the delightful Wanda and Larry Beck (viola and oboe) and hearing about the travails of maintaining residences and musical instruments in Hawaii and Colorado (both challenging environments for houses and instruments). Craig sat out on the lanai and watched the very big waves in the Alenuihaha Channel, and says he was distinctly discomfited by listening to and feeling that 30 knot wind. He saw a ketch round the top of the island and come south - likely it was Midnight Blue, a boat which had left Hilo very early that morning. They were moving downwind with bare poles, finally putting up a deeply reefed main. (We later got an email from Jane on Midnight Blue, and she confirmed that they had reached their anchorage just south of Hawi that afternoon. She said it was very windy...)

We've enjoyed the town of Hilo as well. There's a farmers market on a big scale twice a week, and on a small scale every day. We've seen two movies at the Kress Theater, where the admission is $1.50 on weeknights, and $1.75 on weekends. We've been to the Imiloa Planetarium and to the Lyman House (a museum focusing on the early missionaries). We've found some great restaurants - Thai, Japanese, Hawaiian "plates," Italian, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Chinese. I've been twice to the Discount Fabric Warehouse, which specializes in Hawaiian print fabrics. New fabric items for the boat are in the works, and I bought fabulous fabrics to make Aloha shirts, dinner napkins and Happi coats. I don't know whether any of that will happen while we're still on the boat, or perhaps it's a boatload of projects for when we get back.

Radio Bay - our home for the duration - is fun and interesting as well. We have our little compound here, with about 8 boats backed up to the seawall. A new boat arrives every few days, and sometimes an intrepid boat heads out into the trade winds. We've made some good friends here, and we have periodic pot-lucks or group happy hour around the picnic table. Jim, a single-hander from Victoria, B.C., (Orinoco) is heading back home tomorrow, completing a trip to England and back via the Panama canal. We met Doug and Lyneita (Ka'sala from Comox, B.C.) in Mexico, and our paths have been more or less parallel, and will continue to be so until we head for our respective homes later this summer. Jan and Joanna (Witte Raaf) are a Dutch couple who also came here from Mexico. Joanna stepped on a piece of glass 3 days before they arrived here, and is now on crutches after surgery - quite a lot of acrobatics is required for her to get on and off their boat, via dinghy, climbing the ladder up the sea wall. They'll head for Alaska once she's healed. Yesterday Jack & Joannie (Joannie B of Victoria, B.C.) arrived from Zihuatanejo. Today, Matt and Kelli (Dog Star of Berkeley, CA) left for Maui, trying to catch the miniscule window of slightly less wind that is predicted for tonight. Brian and Eva (Kainani of Hilo) have been here the whole time, fixing up the boat they bought in Mazatlan and sailed here to put into charter service. They are a fount of local knowledge.

Craig talked this morning with the National Weather Service in Honolulu. At the end of this week, it appears there will be a genuine break in the trade winds, so we will definitely, almost for sure, maybe, possibly, be departing then. We'll head around the top of the island and cross the Alenuihaha Channel, finding an anchorage on the south side of Maui, out of the wind.
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